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Big: Extended Edition

It's hard to imagine Big (1988) without Tom Hanks, but that's almost what happened. After Hanks initially passed on the script due to scheduling conflicts, director Penny Marshall offered the starring role to her friend Robert DeNiro, who said yes. Were it not for the fact that DeNiro and Fox couldn't agree on a deal, the poignantly comic tale of sweet New Jersey boy Josh Baskin would have been rewritten as the story of a street-smart kid from the city. But thankfully, the movie gods were paying attention at the right time, and one of Hollywood's best pairings of role and actor was committed to celluloid the way it was meant to be. Hanks has since aced plenty of other parts both comic and dramatic, but he's rarely been as beguilingly charming — and utterly convincing — as he was playing a 12-year-old trapped in a grown man's body, earning his first Oscar nomination in the process. Longing to be "big," young Josh (David Moscow) makes a wish using the local carnival's mysterious Zoltar machine and finds his heart's desire fulfilled literally overnight. Confused, scared, and awkward in his new thirtysomething body, Josh's only ally is his self-assured best friend, Billy (Jared Rushton). While the pair wait for the city to mail them a list of places that might have another Zoltar machine (ahh, bureaucratic red tape — an excellent plot device!), Billy helps Josh find a place to live in New York City and nab an entry-level job at MacMillan Toys. Josh's innocence and enthusiasm soon catch the attention of company founder Mr. MacMillan (Robert Loggia) — the duo's FAO Schwartz keyboard-dancing scene remains a staple of classic-movie-moment montage reels — who impetuously promotes the lowly computer operator to the executive ranks. It's there that Josh catches the attention of both weasely, super-competitive Paul (John Heard) — who's determined to figure out what his new "rival" is up to — and humorless marketing whiz Susan (Elizabeth Perkins), who gradually softens under the influence of Josh's guileless eagerness (their trampoline-jumping scene is another immortal Hollywood moment). Josh and Susan's romance lends Big an affecting emotional subplot, but it's Hanks' ability to convince the audience that he's truly just an overgrown kid that makes the movie work. Everything from his posture to his lack of cynicism is dead-on; when Josh shrugs in reaction to a tough question from Susan, it's really like watching a middle-schooler talk to a woman twice his age. Some of the quirks that set Josh apart from the crowd — the fact that he wears jeans and hula shirts to work and rides around the halls on a scooter — seem a little less odd in this era of colorful Pixar and dot.com executives, but Hanks' talent at portraying the emotional responses of a 12-year-old is as impressive (and timeless) as ever.

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Fans who can't get enough will be eager to see the new "Extended Edition" included in Fox's new two-disc DVD release of Big. About 25 minutes' worth of previously deleted footage has been added back in, with mixed results. Some bits — like MacMillan confiding in Josh about the toy that inspired him to get into the business and Josh and Billy running amok in a tux shop — are worthy additions; others (like an early scene at Billy's house and one in which Susan drops a big wet blanket on her assistant's bridal shower) aren't. Some of the restored scenes are obvious, while others are just longer versions of familiar sequences (more of Josh fooling around in FAO Schwartz, for example, and if you don't feel up to playing "spot the new stuff," many of the key deleted scenes are collected in a separate area on the second disc, with optional intros by Marshall.) The first disc also includes the original theatrical cut; both versions are presented in anamorphic transfers (1.85:1) with English 2.0 stereo audio (French and Spanish mono tracks are also available, as are English and Spanish subtitles). Instead of a traditional audio commentary, co-writers Gary Ross and Anne Spielberg participate in what they call an "audio documentary," explaining and introducing audio tapes they made during their early brainstorming sessions. It's an intriguing idea, and it yields some interesting moments (they originally planned to call the movie When I Grow Up, for example, and Josh was going to be 8 or 10 instead of 12). The rest of the extras are with the deleted scenes on the second disc: trailers, TV spots, and five featurettes. "Big Beginnings" covers some of the same ground touched on in the audio documentary, while "Chemistry of a Classic" is more of a traditional making-of offering. "The Work of Play" shows what it's like to work at a real toy company (pretty fun, apparently), a Big-centric episode of AMC's "Backstory" includes some vintage interviews with Hanks and Co., and the brief, corny "Carnival Party Newswrap" highlights scenes from the movie's premiere party (which was apparently attended by big stars like — gasp! — Barry Bostwick and Kristy McNichol!). Dual-DVD slimline keep-case.
—Betsy Bozdech

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